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Vandalizing or destroying public or private property is a very serious crime and offense that is taken seriously by the rule of law. In the State of California, Penal Code 594 PC makes it illegal to vandalizing public or private party. This makes it illegal to deface property with graffiti, damage something with intent, or knowingly destroy some form of property.
Overall, most people tend to associate vandalism with juvenile activity, but the law is actually quite broad and will cover a wide variety of activities that are commonly caused by adults. Due to the seriousness of the crime, those that are charged and found guilty could be facing serious penalties, fines, and imprisonment.
Legal Definition of Vandalism
Similar to other crimes, there is a legal definition of vandalism in order for someone to be in violation of Penal Code 594 PC. In California, there are three facts that need to be proven out in order for someone to be convicted of vandalism. The three key elements of the crime include providing that you maliciously and with intent defaced or damaged someone else’s property, that you did not actually own the property or that the owner did not allow you to damage the property, and that the amount of damage was either under $400 to qualify as a misdemeanor or over $400 to qualify as a felony.
In general, it will need to be proven that you maliciously damaged something in order to be charged with the crime. If the amount of damage caused is estimated to be under $400, the charge is typically a simple misdemeanor. However, anything in excess of $400 could be constituted as a felony.
Since vandalism and the violation of Penal Code 594 PC is considered a very serious crime, there car be significant penalties involved. If the amount of damage that is caused is estimated to be less than $400 and is a misdemeanor, the penalties are typically not very sever. However, you can still be charged with up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, probation, and be forced to make restitution with the other party.
During a probationary period, you could end up losing your driver’s license for up to two years, have to spend time in counseling, and even complete community service. If you are found guilty of vandalism or other crime during your probationary period, you will likely be facing a more serious charge.
If the total damage is in excess of $400, you will likely be charged with a felony. If you are charged with a felony, the actual punishment you receive will likely vary based on whether you are a repeat offender and the gravity of the damage. However, many people that are in violation of Penal Code 594 PC and are convicted with a felony could spend up to three years in prison and have fines of up to $50,000. Those that are not repeat offenders will likely end up being able to negotiate a lower fine and avoid jail time.
Those that commit an act of vandalism that also puts more people in danger could face even more serious charges. If vandalism causes injuries to other, far more penalties could apply.
Those that are charged with a violation of Penal Code 594 PC will normally follow a number of different defense strategies. One of the most common is to deny that incident entirely. If you are not caught during the act, the prosecutor will have to provide other evidence and witnesses to prove that you were guilty. In these situations you can also claim that there were wrongful allegations and that you are a victim of wrongful arrest.
Another common strategy to follow can include saying that you did not intend to damage the property. Vandalism refers to intentional and malicious damage to property. If you can prove that it was done on accident, you will likely have the charges dropped. However, if there is damage due to your negligence of accident, you could still be required to make restitution to repair the damaged property.
Finally, you can also claim that you were permitted to damage the property. This can be the claim if you either own the property yourself or if the other party and owner of the property allowed you to do so.
Since violation of Penal Code 594 PC comes with a serious set of penalties, it is important that you receive proper legal representation. A criminal defense attorney will be able to help to build your legal defense and negotiate your case to minimize the penalties that you receive if you are found guilty during your trial in the court of law.